Doha is rapidly becoming the cultural capital of the Middle East, with a growing number of museums and galleries showcasing everything from ancient regional artefacts to international contemporary art.
Thanks to the patronage of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family, Doha has reinvented itself over the past 15 years as a global artistic hub. The result of this massive investment – which goes beyond bricks and mortar to purchasing some of the world’s best-known art pieces – is a series of distinguished museums and galleries that dominate the Doha landscape. There are a dozen more in the planning and construction stages, including a sports museum and one dedicated to Orientalist art, but today you will be dazzled by collections of art and artefacts from across the globe in these eight museums and galleries.
Housed in four historic buildings in the oldest part of Doha and adjacent to Souq Waqif, the Msheireb Museums trace the history and growth of Doha from a small fishing village to today. Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohammed bin Jassim House and Radwani House each focus on different aspects of Qatari life and history – the discovery of oil and gas, Qatari traditions and family roles. But it is Bin Jelmood House that is the most evocative and compelling, focussing on the role slavery and human exploitation played in the development of the Persian Gulf countries, including Qatar’s history, particularly pearl diving and the oil industry’s early exploratory days.
The Fire Station is a community-focused creative space that hosts a revolving exhibition venue. Though intimate, the gallery has been home to artistic giants – past exhibits have included the works of Pablo Picasso and Ai Wei Wei – as well as an artist-in-residence programme to nurture local and regional talent. The external walls of the building (once the home of Doha’s fire brigade) feature murals by Qatari artists commemorating the first 100 days of the blockade of Qatar by neighbouring countries and Egypt. The gallery also has a popular café selling coffee and healthy snacks.